Growing up, Thanksgiving was one of two completely different holidays. It was either a big meal on a four-day weekend with only my nuclear family…or it was a madhouse of folks somehow distantly related to me and our dozens of “cousins” (which is what we called anyone under 18 for simplicity’s sake) running feral, enough turkey to feed a small country and approximately one pie per person for dessert.

The Thanksgivings we spent with just the five of us were nice. Calm and relaxing. The food was always good, of course. Though without the distraction of other children around, I remember spending half the day “STARVING” while waiting impatiently for dinner to be served (at 4 o’clock) and the other half looking for something to do to get out of my mom’s hair (pretty sure those were her exact words).

But the Thanksgivings we spent with a thousand cousins I’d barely met before? They were exciting. They were crazy and interesting and exhilarating. I hardly noticed we didn’t ever eat lunch because we never stopped running long enough to realize. Plus, all the relatives either brought some fantastically unhealthy appetizer we could snatch as we swooped past, or one of the 75 pies that took over entire tables, so lunch hardly seemed to matter.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the quieter Thanksgivings at home. It’s just, at the time, they seemed more like a great four-day weekend off of school with a great big meal thrown in, and not an uber-special holiday.

Now, as the parent of two adorable children (if I do say so myself) who really likes Thanksgiving, I’d like to make it into the uber-special holiday version.

Only, my husband (understandably) refuses to pay gazillions of dollars to travel across the entire country and screw up all our time clocks for only four days when we’re going to be seeing all his relatives in a month anyway…and we just don’t have the extended family close by to create a feral child environment.

In fact, the only extended family we have close by (whom we love dearly) are definitely anti-feral child.  More of a…sterile child setting. You know the type: they wake up in the morning with their pajamas looking ironed and not a hair out of place, their houses have never seen a dust bunny much less an entire family of them under each heavy piece of furniture, and a raised voice is quite a shocking thing, whether it be a child who raised the voice or not.

Definitely no feral children.

So I asked the four-year old what we could have to make Thanksgiving EXTRA special.  What did he say, no prompting necessary?  Banana cream pie. And my husband, he’d really like his favorite lemon meringue this year…and it has been quite awhile since I’ve made it for him, not that he doesn’t understand and all… And my brother would like to contribute a raspberry cheesecake. And my mother’s special is cherry pie. Personally, I love pecan pie and Thanksgiving is the only chance I get to make it, so darn it, I’ll make it! Then again, you can’t not have a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving…  At least I’ve managed to recreate the one pie per person part of my childhood Thanksgivings!

While I do enjoy having my choice of desserts, I decided maybe we should start different traditions that make the day more exciting and rewarding (and perhaps less fattening!), something the kids will cherish and really remember years from now.

This year, we made a runner to decorate the table, that I like to think made the kids feel more of a part of the preparations, and it could be done while the turkey was in the oven!

But I want to know – what makes Thanksgiving special to you? What do you remember most about Thanksgiving growing up? What do you do to pull your kids into the Thanksgiving mood when they can’t become feral?



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4 Responses to Uber-Thanksgiving

  1. Anne Boodheshwar Anne Boodheshwar says:

    Growing up we too had the small quiet and the loud crazy! As a kid, I always perferred the crazy time being with our family that we didn’t get to see often, since we lived too far away.
    My own family of four now also lives far from family, but we have found ways over the years to enjoy our weekend. We have our own traditions…watching the parade with a big breakfast, then relaxing til the big meal! Some years we get a new game or two to break in. This year we spent the day with our friends. And as always…the day after we break out the Christmas decorations and deck the halls! Wherever we end up, we just make sure to spend time being thankful for each other!

    • Penney Blakely says:

      I love the idea of a new game, we’ll definitely try that next year. And we’ve been putting up the tree for the last few years as part of the long weekend, but my daughter had the misfortune of being born between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year and now I’m afraid putting up the tree before her birthday might take away from her own celebration. We’ll see how she feels in a couple years…

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Kathi Szabo says:

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! I have hijacked it – meaning I have thanksgiving at my house every year. Everyone’s invited and sometimes it’s a fullhouse and sometimes it’s not. My husband does the turkey, I do the sides, and every year I have what I am now calling Thanksgiving surprise – a new side dish that I’ve never tried before. Some people may think I’m crazy for trying a new recipe with company, but family to me is not company and I rarely cook except at Thanksgiving. One year I made pumpkin bread pudding served in a small pumpkin – not so good! But this year carribean style cranberries were a big hit as well as a special beet recipe! An the best tradition is the pair of pilgrims my mother-in-law gave me the year I declared I would always have Thanksgiving! They are the centerpiece no matter what.

    • Penney Blakely says:

      Pumpkin bread pudding sounds good in theory…glad to know it didn’t work out so well, I may have tried it myself some day. You have saved my husband from lying about how much he loved it while forcing it down his throat until every last drop was consumed. (He’s a good man.) So thanks for that!

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